“You can see that there are parallels to certain issues that we’re facing today,” says Jared Harris about the relevancy of “Chernobyl.” In telling the true story of the deadly 1986 nuclear power plant explosion in the USSR, the actor finds many similarities to today’s world when it comes to “people in government deciding that scientific facts that are inconvenient to their political point of view are suppressed or dismissed.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Harris above.
The HBO series recounts the event while also revealing the efforts by the Soviet government to cover them up. “Obviously, there’s a parallel … with climate science,” explains Harris regarding “the denial of the experts, the suppression of the truth … and if you have information or facts that are counter to that narrative, they silence you. The Soviet Union was a state where … the population had become cynical to the idea that they could hold power to account,” which Harris believes to be the case today.
Harris portrays Valery Legasov, a Soviet nuclear scientist who headed the investigation into the incident. “He has a suspicion that the situation is not what they’re reporting,” Harris says, “that it’s a bigger problem than they think that it is.” Faced with “the worst scenario he could’ve possibly imagined,” Legasov finds “there’s no playbook for this. It’s never happened, and you’ve got to figure it out as you go along.”
Legasov reminded the actor of “the Cassandra character in the Trojan myths: he can see how this can go badly wrong and no one will listen to him. He’s the smartest person in the room that no one pays attention to.” But the actor also found him to be someone who wasn’t “naturally heroic,” and has to observe “moments of courage from other people and try to gain power from that.”
Harris was previously nominated for Best Drama Supporting Actor at the Emmys for “Mad Men” (2012). He won a SAG Award as a member of that show’s ensemble in 2010 and earned additional nominations for that show in 2011 and 2012; and before that he was nominated with the cast of the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008). His role as King George VI on “The Crown” brought him a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a Critics’ Choice bid for Best Drama Guest Actor.
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